These simple steps will curb household mold

Even the word mold is unappealing. The stuff itself—slimy, funky-colored and sometimes furry-looking—is gross. And although reports of "killer mold" are largely unfounded, the fungi can aggravate asthma and cause allergic reactions. Recent studies even suggest that long-term exposure to household mold may be linked to depression, headaches, stomach problems and memory loss. Here, seven tips on mold prevention, from Laureen Burton, M.P.H., a toxicologist for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Indoor Environments division:

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Scrub Away Household Mold

To remove mold from hard surfaces like walls and bathroom tiles, use a sponge dipped in warm water mixed with a teaspoon of dish detergent. You can also use a solution of diluted bleach (never more than one cup of bleach per gallon of water) to disinfect the area. To avoid breathing in spores (the invisible cells by which molds reproduce) while you're scrubbing, wear a respirator mask, available at most hardware stores. You'll have to toss porous items like books and magazines if they're mold-contaminated; they're usually too difficult to clean fully.

Use Fans and Vents to Prevent Mold Growth

Mold ends up in your home when spores land on a damp area. A little moisture is all the spores require to reproduce and form colonies, which is why mold is so common in bathrooms. You can install exhaust fans that blow moist air out of the bathroom. That's a good option if you have allergies. Other folks may run a regular fan instead and leave the bathroom door and window open after showering to increase air circulation. Make sure you vent appliances that produce moisture, such as clothes dryers and stoves, to the outside of your home.

Dehumidify the Basement to Stop Mold

A dehumidifier should ideally keep humidity levels below 60 percent. An inexpensive device called a hygrometer measures relative humidity and can be found at most hardware stores. Be sure to drain the dehumidifier's collection bucket regularly.

Use A/C in Hot, Humid Weather

The ideal is an air conditioner with a HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filter, which will trap mold spores. Keep drip pans clean and empty them regularly.

Free Your Foundation of Foliage

Remove dead leaves near the foundation and in rain gutters. Avoid planting dense foliage, which promotes moisture, near your home's foundation.

Keep Rugs and Carpets Dry

Skip carpeting in basements and bathrooms; area rugs that can be easily washed and dried are a much better idea. Act quickly when cleaning up spills. Mold growth can usually be prevented when a wet area is thoroughly dried within 24 to 48 hours of a leak or spill.

Get Professional Mold Removal if You Need It

If you've got large areas of mold, your house has a musty smell or you have allergy symptoms and suspect hidden mold behind walls or in your ventilation system, you should consider hiring a contractor experienced in mold removal. Check references and ask the mold professional to follow clean-up guidelines from a government organization such as the EPA.

Stop Sneaky Household Mold in These Spots

Windows

People think of bathrooms and basements as the primary mold zones—and they certainly are—but that grime you see around your windows and doors is probably mold, too. If so, scrub it away and increase ventilation.

Faucets

If you notice brown or muddy-green spots around faucets, pipes or other areas (trash bins in bathrooms and kitchens, for example) that are regularly wet, you need to clean them more often and keep the area better ventilated.

Ceiling Tiles

In addition to loving porous surfaces like carpeting and books and magazines, mold may grow on ceiling tiles as well. If mold-riddled porous items don't respond to detergent or bleach, it may be best to replace them.

Adapted from our sister publication, Remedy's Healthy Living, Summer 2011

Related Article:

What to Do If Your Home is a Breeding Ground for Mold

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Published: 12 Apr 2011

Last Modified: 27 Feb 2012